"The power of the people is much stronger than the people in power."
-Wael Ghonim, widely-credited as a catalyst of the 2011 Egypt Revolution
LIFE IS NOT a dress rehearsal.
We get just one shot, so it ought to be our best one.
To live your best life, you must know why you do what you do. That is the very combustible fuel that lights your fire and powers your passion.
I have dedicated virtually every waking moment of my life over the past five years to social media. I am irretrievably drawn to it. I seem to have a talent for it. But, until recently, I wasn't crystal clear on why I did it. Now, I know:
Because social media empowers you.
And, when you're empowered, humanity marches forward. We all win.
I love how social media gives us a voice-and a shot. I love how it elevates us to be true to the best we know.
I love how it fosters connections, forces transparency and foments revolutions. I love how, armed with the right message at the right time, ordinary people like
@veggefatale can execute the extraordinary and bring badly-behaving corporations to their proverbial knees. I love how an uplifting video can beam across humanity and infuse people with the gift of hope. I love that nice guys, good companies and worthy organizations finish first. I love how this new generation is using social media to move mountains. I love how charitable organizations are using social media to save lives.
I love the positive impact it has on our world-and the promise it holds for our future.
It is thrilling when I see someone take to social media, find their voice, realize their power and unleash it on the world. Humans have waited millennia for this moment; and, here we are.
I believe the vast majority of people are good, honest and want to make things better for themselves-and their families. I've seen it first-hand as an ambassador for CARE, a global humanitarian organization.
Just look at what occurred in Egypt.
The Egyptian people had been oppressed for three decades, held hostage by a psychological barrier of fear. What Mubarak-and most of the world, for that matter-didn't grasp was that the playing field had changed. Monumentally. The power balance had shifted. Dramatically.
Mubarak's regime didn't understand two key points about social media: 1) That connecting people breaks down the barrier of fear, and 2) That it could move messages and mobilize masses with blinding speed.
Cell phones and email might reach hundreds of people at a time. Twitter and Facebook reach hundreds of thousands. In hours. Those hundreds of thousands can reach millions. In days.
The Egyptian government made the grave miscalculation that they could quell this rebellion just as they had done before. But this time, nothing could contain the Egyptian people. They had the desire for change-and the tools to make it happen. The Egyptian regime was trying to hold back a tsunami with its bare hands.
As 60 Minutes later reported,
"Their revolution began not with terrorism and tanks, but with Twitter and texts ... an aging autocrat who ruled as a modern pharaoh fell victim to those weapons of the young -out-organized and outmaneuvered by social media, by kids with keyboards."
On February 11, 2011, Mubarak officially stepped down. Imagine that. The dictator who clung to power through scandalous elections, corruption charges-and six attempts on his life-could not withstand the social-driven groundswell that flat-out overwhelmed him. After being in power for almost three decades, he was out...In 18 days.
While social media did not create the conditions for a revolution, it accelerated it. The fuel was there. Social media merely ignited the fire and fanned the flames for the world to see.
Until now, dictators, corporations and governments have had no compelling reason to listen to the people. That is until enough people come together-in sufficient numbers and sufficiently public-to force the change.
That's what social media does. It makes good on the long-held promise that one person can change the world. It draws us together and empowers us. I can think of nothing more important and thrilling and wonderful than that.
When you are empowered, we all win.
Eric Harr is the CBS News Social Media Expert and the founder & president of Resonate Social. His agency is developing a new series of "personal empowerment apps" starting with Flyright, a new mobile app that harnesses the real-time social web to give you, the airline passenger, a stronger voice-to help you be heard and resolve airline travel issues when you need it most: right there on the spot. Learn more at http://flyrightapp.com or follow on Twitter.
Social Empowerment Tips
1. Master the tools, but don't rely on them. Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Linkedin, Pinterest, Hootsuite. These are the arrows in your quiver. Understand how they work and the nuances around each. Learn how to leverage from your mobile device. The more you know, the more empowered you are. Remember, though, social platforms are merely tools-and much can get lost in translation. Be especially kind, compassionate and gracious. You are dealing with real people on the other end of those posts.
2. Build your networks far and wide. Social media breaks down all barriers. Some of the most personally and professionally rewarding relationships I have forged are not in the realm of social media or technology. Do not limit yourself to people just like you, in your space. Heed Mark Twain's advice: "Throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
3. Invest time every day. Like exercise, you get out what you put in. This is good old fashioned relationship building. That takes time. Bring old-school to new media.
4. Be your best self. Social media provides an opportunity for you to be true to the best you know. Put out stellar content. Be enchanting; people prefer to do business with people they like. Work towards a common cause, help others and change the world! Those are the most empowering acts of all!